Belgian Kim Clijsters dashed the hopes of Venus Williams in a victory that turned on a stirring tiebreak performance, defeating her fellow two-time champion 4-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 on Friday to reach the final of the US Open.
Second seed Clijsters will bid for her third trophy at Flushing Meadows on Saturday when she faces Vera Zvonareva. The Russian marched into her second Grand Slam final of the season as the summer's Wimbledon finalist upset top seed Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-3.
Defending champion Clijsters stand 5-2 over Zvonareva, but has lost both of their meetings this season, at Wimbledon and last month in Canada.
"I just tried to make the points and whenever I felt I had the opportunity to step up and accelerate a little bit, I tried to keep the pressure on her," said the winner.
"I'm glad she made a few double faults in the tiebreaker. It was a great match to play. Conditions weren't easy but I think we played some high level tennis. It was a fun night."
Clijsters, who quit the game for more than two years and won the 2009 New York honours in only her third event back, also won the event in 2005, two years after losing a final to Justine Henin.
Clijsters is on a 20-match win streak at the venue, where she lost her last match in that 2003 final against her compatriot. Williams has gone without an Open title since 2001.
Williams took the opening set with a break but was broken early in the second. The American got the break back but was hammered in a tiebreaker, committing two consecutive double-faults on her way to a set apiece.
"In the tiebreak I wasn't able to play as well as I wanted. I had too many errors, and she played some good tennis," said Williams.
"I would have liked to win this match and be playing tomorrow. I may have lost the match, but that's just this match, there will be others."
Clijsters again grabbed the lead in the final set, taking a 2-1 lead, but threw it away with back-to-back double-faults and an over-hit forehand for 4-4.
The Belgian calmly broke back thanks to a Williams double-fault and a winning lob from Clijsters, who served out the victory a game later with a backhand down-the-line winner.
Zvonareva, who turned 26 this week and is the highest-ranked Russian women, will rise to at least sixth after beating Wozniacki.
"I was not expecting to play my best tennis," said Zvonareva. "I was trying to be patient when I needed, and step up when I got the chance.
"The Wimbledon final was a great experience, but I'm trying to
look forward," said the eighth-ranked winner of 10 career titles. "I'm enjoying my win today, I'll think of the final later.
"I'm gonna take it just as another match. I'll play point by point and not think about anything else."
The loss snapped a 13-match win streak for Wozniacki, who leads the WTA with four trophies this season.
"She played a really good game, definitely," said the Dane. "She she was not missing a lot, she was going for her shots, most things were going in. I had chances, and I don't know, I made some mistakes today that I usually don't do.
"It was a tough day for me in the office, unfortunately that's the way tennis is sometimes."